Thursday, October 08, 2009

BPS DIY "How to" Series

New Essay Series: The DIY on the BPS

I have been lurking on the self-publishing website for years, but over the past week I have made a serious study of their best-selling books. The site displays an all-time bestseller list, and a monthly and weekly list of their best selling works -- and curiously, they do it all without mentioning exactly how many copies each book managed to sell.

However, one thing is clear. They publish poetry, novels, technical books, but the one genre that they do a really good job of pushing off the shelves and into the cashier is the How-to book. Their all time best seller is a how-to, as is their second place winner, and so on right down the list as far as you want to go. Almost all their bestsellers are from that genre. It is pretty clear that this site knows how to sell how-to books.

Anyway, I caught a cold a few days ago and what with the pets waking me at all hours, I have taken to sleeping odd hours. So it was that I woke early this morning with these questions in my head: what would the Baha'i principles look like if they were a series of self-help books? Would DIY Baha'i books sell as well on Lulu as other how-to's? Is it right brazenly to cash in on the principles by making them into do-it-yourselfers? Swallowing my scruples, I quickly wrote down the following possible titles for a series of short books -- short is good, between 150 and 200 pages -- about the principles.


How to Investigate Reality
How to Unite the World
How to Reconcile Religions
How to Unite Science and Religion
How to Exterminate Prejudice
How to Reform Free Enterprise
How to Promote Education
How to Learn Esperanto
How to Promote the Equality of the Sexes How to Understand God
How to Promote World Peace


For virtually all of these topics I probably have enough material already written to be able to put out a small book of that title with only a few weeks of preparation and supplementary research. Indeed, I could do it even quicker if I cheated a little by writing a short essay on the specific topic of the title and then filling in the rest of the content of the book simply by plopping already written essays straight out of the Badi' blog. In any case, it feels funny to look over this list, and reflect upon how easy it is to turn the holy principles of Baha'u'llah into a sort of "Principles for Complete Idiots," or "Baha'i Principles for Dummies" publishing venture.

At least, it felt funny at first.

Now that I think of it, many of these titles make the principle look more optimistic and hopeful than they would otherwise seem. For example, "How to unify the religions" assumes that this is a goal, which it is most emphatically not for most experts in the field. Same thing for eliminating prejudice. That, surely is a good thing. In fact, there is a certain attraction to these approaches. I would buy them, if I did not have to write them first. Maybe I will start off by writing an essay series based on the above titles, and taking it from wherever that takes me.


SherryKaraoke said...

I think this is a great idea. Your realization that these sound very optimistic is well-taken. In fact, it is important for all of us to see these principles as real possibilities, not just high-flown, pie-in-the-sky ideals. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

This quotation is related to the idea of having general goals and then the need for a detailed how-to implement them. Good luck with your how-to project.

"I have often wondered in the course of my Bahá'í life why so many people who are eminently practical and sensible in their lives as business men, doctors, lawyers, ditch-diggers or whatever it may be, do not carry these faculties into their Bahá'í activity. It is almost as if to them Utopia was a film and all you had to do was project it on a screen and it would become reality.

"Not so the Guardian. He went about his own tasks - building up the Administrative Order, implementing the Divine Plan of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, organizing his work and the work of the Bahá'í world - very much as the great Renaissance painters created their vast frescoes and canvases. First came the cartoon, the whole idea, scale, colour, proportion; then it was quartered, divided into a grid a squares; this was transferred to the permanent surface and the great guiding lines filled in, the outlines, the figures in shadow; then came the detail and colours, applied with infinite patience until perfection was achieved. Such was the method of Shoghi Effendi and he allowed no one to start painting in figures or details before the canvas was ready to take them."

(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 372)